Jorge Sotirios on the false divide between literature and science @ Griffith Review. The earthquake that rocked the Mediterranean during the summer of 1999 was quick and devastating. Lasting thirty-seven seconds and measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, the consequences were far-reaching. In north western Turkey an unofficial estimate of up to 40,000 died instantly under rubble or were buried alive. Over 100,000 were left homeless. Mass graves became the norm with every morgue filled to overflowing.
Civic authorities even commandeered ice-hockey rinks to refrigerate numerous corpses. Threats of disease of plague proportions threatened to inundate the country, yet this tragedy also brought out the best between Turks and their natural adversary, the Greeks. The two nations initiated ‘Earthquake Diplomacy’ exchanging first aid personnel and rescue teams, alongside financial support when seismic quakes affected suburban Athens a month later.One notorious case was revealed in the investigation and characterised Turkey’s antiquated building laws that preserved its Byzantine legacy, and allowed conmen to take advantage of them. A builder was put on trial for lax building material used in his constructions, but sought to deflect blame by claiming he wasn’t a builder, ‘but a poet’. His defence was thrown out of court. A badly erected building can kill you. A badly composed poem – generally speaking - won’t.